strengthening stark



Strengthening Stark is movement overseen by Stark Economic Development Board. The movement is made up and driven by the economic development entities and community partners from across the county. This group of involved leaders have committed to collaboratively align their individual organization’s goals and contribute to collective work towards the county-wide improvement plan established by the group.

Strengthening Stark Vision

A more vibrant economy FOR ALL

Strengthening Stark Mission

A growing, younger, and more prosperous community

2022-2025 Priorities

There are many interdependent factors that contribute to a vibrant economy. In 2021, the Strengthening Stark movement took a deep dive into long-term metrics and medium-term metrics that can be monitored to ensure efforts are moving the needle.

  • Market & drive enrollment for ‘in-demand’ industries
  • Expand & diversity employment in traded sector industries
  • Attract & retain talent to increase Stark County’s percentage of population age 25-44
  • Drive & reward innovation and productivity growth



To organize the large body of work, there are three staff people dedicated to the Strengthening Stark movement. Though these staff work in Stark Economic Development Board’s Strengthening Stark office, Strengthening Stark is really defined by the community partners driving and executing the initiatives!

These three individuals are tasked with:

  • convening the group of Strengthening Stark leaders
  • convening collaborative working groups
  • identifying gaps and duplication of efforts and opportunities for partners to collaborate
  • encouraging partner alignment to the overarching strategic priorities



Career Connect is a unique Strengthening Stark initiative. This community collaboration of workforce agencies is focused on placing unemployed and underemployed job seekers into livable wage jobs, including an intentional focus on economic mobility for minorities and low income residents.

Utilizing shared, aggregated data allows the collaboration to create best practices that lead to better outcomes for job seekers and employers. Navigators from Stark County agencies work directly with individuals, acting as the bridge between job seekers, employers, and the community. Job navigators from Stark County agencies are supported by educators, trainers, resource partners, and employers.

Career Connect Navigating Agencies

  • Greater Stark County Urban League
  • ICAN Housing, Inc.
  • Goodwill Industries of Cleveland and East Central Ohio
  • Stark County Job & Family Services
  • Ohio Means Jobs Stark County
  • Project REBUILD
  • Men’s Challenge
  • Stark County Community Action Agency

2023 Career Connect Goals

  1. Achieve full Staffing for Navigating Agencies
    • Before expanding outreach or capacity, agencies need to retain their existing staff and reach current planned staffing capacity.
  1. Increase effectiveness of Navigating Agencies
    • Using best practices and navigator development, Career Connect will focus on increasing the effectiveness of staff and programming.
  1. Secure shared funding for employment barrier mitigation
    • 2020-2022 outcomes leveraged now-depleted grant funding. Due to state-wide COVID-related benefits ending, barriers to employment will be even greater in 2023.
  1. Convene workforce ecosystem decision makers
    • Convene workforce leaders and funders to consider coordination of workforce efforts and funding across Stark County to maximize efficiency and impact.


In 2016, an informal group of leaders representing all sectors of Stark County called Stark Civic Group sanctioned a report to examine the demographic and economic trends and projections of Stark County. Stark Community Foundation developed the report on behalf of the group in 2017. The report, titled Strengthening Stark, confirmed undesirable statistics and trends and Economic Development Board (SEDB) was asked to lead the creation of a county-wide plan.

In response to the report’s findings, a Strengthening Stark Economic Competitiveness Plan was created in 2018 by the group of local leaders, facilitated by a consultant working alongside Stark County organizations and within the community. It comprised of 3 focus areas and over 20 initiatives aimed at transforming Stark County from a smaller, older and poorer community into a growing, younger and more prosperous community FOR ALL.




Strengthening Stark

400 3rd Street SE, Suite 302

Canton, OH  44702

(330) 453-5628 Office 


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Stark Development Board ©2017.